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State needs to delay high-stakes testing

A recent Another Voice piece got one thing right: Too many Buffalo students are not graduating and going on to college and successful careers.

In pinning blame on teachers and their union, the author misses the real issue: A system built on a teetering foundation and uploaded with meaningless data is useless.

Teachers back comprehensive, rigorous and fair evaluations aimed at helping them to become stronger educators. And most teachers support the potential of the Common Core standards to improve student achievement – if done right. Unfortunately, the state’s botched and illogical implementation of the Common Core, which, in many cases, saw students tested before they were taught the material, rendered many individual evaluations meaningless and undermined parents’ and teachers’ confidence in the new standards. Furthermore, this sea change in education is occurring at a time when roughly three-quarters of school districts are operating with less state aid than in 2008-09, and under an undemocratic tax cap.

The solution is not to abandon high academic standards or evaluations, but rather to insist the New York State Education Department and Regents get it right. This includes giving districts time to implement the standards correctly; ensuring tests are age- and grade-appropriate; providing teachers with the necessary professional development; engaging parents in what the new, higher expectations entail; and demanding the Legislature increase its investment in schools. To allow time for those course corrections, New York State United Teachers is calling for a three-year moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and teachers from state testing. Simply put, the state must put the brakes on the stakes, while stepping on the gas of supports for students and teachers. That’s the best, and most logical, way to help students across the state.

Donald Benker

Williamsville